Friday, 28 November 2014

First Steps in Math - Day 1

    Today I began the First Steps in Math program with four other educators from our division. Several years ago our division sent one of our colleagues to the First Steps in Math training program and he has now spent time each year educating other teachers in our division and was actually trained by David McKillop, who I saw last year in Brandon.

Turtle River School Division, first steps in math program
My new books (provided by our division): the First Steps in Math Number Sense course book & work book.

     First Steps in Math was developed in Australia in the early 1990's as a means to identify the conceptual phases that all students go through and analyze how best to address any gaps that may occur in their understanding. In their own words, First Steps in Math helps teachers:

- build or extent their own knowledge of the mathematics underpinning
   the curriculum

- understand how students learn mathematics so that they can make sound
  professional decisions

- plan learning experiences that are likely to develop the mathematics
  outcomes for all students

- recognize opportunities for incidental teaching during conversations and
  routines that occur in the classroom

     Our first full-day session, of four, focused on the background research behind the program and how the program is organized. We spent the majority of the morning discussing these introductory topics and then looked at two chapters to see how the program looks in practice. It is important to note that we are only focusing on the Number curricula for right now, but the program offers the same resources for Measurement, Geometry, Space, Data Management, and Probability.

     In regards to Number, this resource centers on two main areas: the individual concept development and how it ties into a continuum of understanding. The program identifies eight Key Understandings for this topic and allots an entire chapter to each one. This chapter includes:

- a concise explanation of the key understanding

- a series of learning activities organized by grade level (K-8)

- a case study

- a "did you know" article that discusses possible misconceptions

Personally I like the way the chapters are set up as they are to-the-point and easy to follow; I can see myself being able to easily pull out information as needed without having to re-read full chapters. The program also includes a section of Diagnostic Tests that help showcase a student's understanding and pin-point possible learning activities to help strengthen weak concepts.

    My only experience teaching math is in Grades 8-10 so I found it very interesting to see how the foundational numeracy skills are developed in younger grades. While I have several students I can think of that are struggling with some misconceptions I already feel more prepared in appropriately assessing their area of difficulty and recognize that their challenge most likely stems directly from a foundational concept as opposed to a higher-order topic.

     Here is an example of the types of questions we analyzed today as a group:

 When given a set of numbers and asked to order them from least to greatest, a student answered
303, 304, 305, 298, 299

What do you think the student's misconception was?


  1. Hi. I've been trying to find out where to attend the First Steps in Mathematics training. No luck so far. Do you have any resources that could lead me to it? Thanks for your post. Now it's gotten me even more interested. --Claire Winkeler

    1. I believe that the creator, thr department of education of Western Australia, had put its work in the public domain with a Creative Commons licence. You can download all the books free from the Department website. Google it. In addition, Canadian publisher Pearson seems to have ceased publication and training.

      Contact me at for further information.


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